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Making a difference to patient care as an acute hospital inspector for the Care Quality Commission

It is our duty to ensure that patients are treated with dignity and respect at all times, says Priya Patel, Care Quality Commission inspector for acute hospitals in South London.

Priya Patel, Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspector for acute hospitals in South London

Source: Courtesy of Priya Patel

Being a CQC inspector is rewarding because I feel we are making a difference to patient care, says Priya Patel

What is your current role and what path did you follow to get here?

I began my career as a clinical pharmacist after completing my preregistration training in 2011 at St. George’s NHS Healthcare Trust, London. It is here that I also secured a position as a resident pharmacist and gained experience in various areas such as paediatrics, technical services, medicines information, and cardiology. After working in the NHS for three years, I became a rotational clinical pharmacist at a large London private hospital where I acquired specialist experience in oncology and intensive care.

My interest in improving patient care within trusts led me to apply for my current position as an acute hospitals inspector for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in September 2017. My role involves inspecting and regulating services, being responsible for monitoring portfolios, and maintaining an audit trail of key records. It is a role which requires plenty of teamwork and engagement with providers, stakeholders and the public.

What do CQC inspectors look for during an inspection?

CQC inspectors carry out regular checks on health and social care services to ensure safe, effective and well-led care that is responsive to individual needs. When we carry out inspections, we use Key Lines of Enquiry (KLOEs) and information from the public and/or patients to help us decide what we need to focus on. For example, the team may look at identification and management of risks to determine whether a service is safe. CQC inspectors use these KLOEs and information from planning stages to structure visits and identify services which are performing well and those which are a cause for concern. Some examples of evidence used include interviews, assessments of individual care pathways and reviews of records

What are the tasks and responsibilities associated with your role?

My role involves attending focus groups with hospital staff, planning and conducting inspections, and engaging with stakeholders and the public. Developing relationships with key public stakeholders, engagement planning and exchange of information all help in improving care.

To prepare for inspections, we obtain provider information requests and organise inspection planning meetings. CQC inspectors are responsible for leading inspections and managing our own portfolios. Attendance at weekly team meetings ensures everyone is kept up-to-date, and allows for ideas and information sharing.

What do you find most rewarding about your role?

My role as a CQC inspector is rewarding because I feel we are making a difference to patient care. I am able to apply my knowledge to practice, particularly in pharmacy-related areas, but I also enjoy being able to view patient care as a whole. It is particularly rewarding to be working within a friendly team with supportive managers who embody CQC’s values of excellence, caring, integrity and teamwork.

Training to become an inspector was been a steep learning curve, but I enjoy working within a multidisciplinary team and gaining insights from patients as well as individuals from both clinical and non-clinical backgrounds.

How relevant is your pharmacy degree and clinical background to your current role?

Both clinical pharmacy and hospital inspection require knowledge of effective medicines management and optimisation, risk management, and a strong commitment to continuing professional development. Previous experience working in a hospital setting is also advantageous.

What skills are required to be effective as a CQC acute hospitals inspector?

It is essential for inspectors to have confidence and awareness of what good care looks like. It is also important that inspectors are competent and able to communicate with colleagues at all levels of seniority. The culture at the CQC promotes enthusiasm, as well as motivation and willingness to lead by example, in order to achieve personal, team and national goals. Attention to detail, excellent report-writing skills and commitment to improving and driving patient care are also desirable.

How does your role affect patient care?

The CQC ensures patients receive individualised care that meets their needs. It is also our duty to ensure that patients are treated with dignity and respect at all times and that informed consent is given prior to any care or treatment being administered. The CQC works closely with providers to assess the potential risks to patient health and safety during care or treatment and to take action where necessary. Staff must possess the relevant qualifications, competence, skills and experience. Review of safeguarding referrals and Trust safeguarding policies ensure patients do not suffer any form of abuse while receiving care.

What opportunities are there for career progression?

The CQC offers a range of opportunities for career progression. Inspectors can progress to the position of inspection manager for registration, enforcement or hospitals. There is also the opportunity to obtain roles within the policy and strategy areas of CQC. The responsibility of inspection managers is to oversee onsite personnel during inspections, drive service improvement and offer appropriate support to inspectors. This area along with providing specialist advice is something that I am interested in exploring in the future.

There are also opportunities to progress to head of inspection for hospitals.

What advice would you give to pharmacists interested in roles at the CQC?

For pharmacists wanting a new challenge within the healthcare sector, the CQC is the perfect place to start. Becoming a CQC inspector is quite challenging, but it is a role that comes with plenty of autonomy, teamwork and opportunities to collaborate with individuals from a variety of backgrounds.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20204028

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